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Point of View

February 16, 2013

Having finally made it to see Les Miserables this week, I decided to dig out my copies of Victor Hugo’s trilogy and start to reread them in French. I was immediately struck by the unusual point of view through which they are narrated. The reader is presented with a story that is told (not shown) in the ‘nous’ or ‘we’ form. Hugo uses this point of view to take us on a journey through his novel in much the same way as Billy Connolly invites viewers to join him on a journey of discovery during his travel programmes. At the moment I can’t think of another author who has written from an omniscient ‘we’ angle. Perhaps you can come up with one.
Whilst studying for an M.A. in Creative Writing with Teesside University a few years ago, we were tasked with considering point of view or modes of narrative and to have a go at producing a short story written from a perspective that we had never tried before. I tackled the second-person narrative mode or ‘you’ form. Exercises in Linda Anderson’s ‘Creative Writing: A Workbook with Readings’ (recommended by the Open University) were a useful way in to practising writing in this point of view. I also sourced and read stories narrated from this viewpoint in order to learn from authors who had successfully sustained the use of ‘you’ throughout the narrative.
If you would like to stretch yourself as a writer, you could write or rewrite a piece using one of the following points of view:
1st person narrative or ‘I’
2nd person narrative or ‘You’
3rd person narrative or ‘He/She/It’
multiple person narratives or ‘We/You/They’
stream of consiousness
unreliable narrative
Alternatively, you might like to reflect on the point of view used in the book you are reading at the moment. Ask yourself what impact the narrative mode has both on the story and yourself as the reader.
Let us know how you get on.


From → Creative Writing

  1. Such an interesting post. Point of view is often taken for granted by writers and readers alike, I had not thought (or consciously come across) the ‘we’point of view, And how stunningly impressive that you read Les Miserables in French. I like to change points of view in my novels, But not more than two…WX

    • Hi Wendy. The ability to read in French is left over from my former life as a French teacher. It enables me to access a different number of ‘little grey cells’. I find that switching from poetry to prose has the same effect. It seems to me that different types of reading and writing stimulate different parts of the brain even if it is still just 1% of the whole.

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